Our culture is how we understand life. It is a set of beliefs, values, and behaviors that is reinforced from cradle to grave. Like an iceberg, only a small part of our culture is above water, visible. Usually, it’s the most public parts, like food, dress, music, language, religion, and holidays. Underwater concepts give meaning to the above-water behavior. They are so inherent as to be invisible to people who live inside a culture and are often incomprehensible to outsiders.
Regardless of the makeup of our particular iceberg, however, we share the same basic questions: What is the meaning of life? How do we feed ourselves? How shall we raise our children? Love and marry? Our cultural solutions to these shared questions become a kind of lens through which we see the world. These cultural lenses can make us judgmental. We are tempted to believe that our answers are the right way and that our own ethnic group and culture are superior to all others.
When we can recognize these lenses for what they are, we can begin to explore the underwater of other cultures, and experience God’s love for us not through conformity but an appreciation of diversity.
This message was adapted from “Cultural Iceberg” by Sunitha Mortha that appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.